Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sweet Cherry Memories

I love summertime fruits. I have been slamming back strawberries like they are going out of style. My son and I go through a 2 lb carton in just a few days! Mangos mount up in my fruit bowl weekly, and pineapple is popping up in my afternoon routine.

Cherries are another treat I have been devouring by the bulk, their taste attached to so many memories. My aunt Barbra used to own apple and cherry orchards up in Spokane, Washington and I was able to go up for cherry picking season one year. The joy of walking right out her back door into the orchards and picking plump cherries right off the tree is a lasting treasure in my mind. I made the most delicious cherry tarts one afternoon.. I can still remember the juicy cherries warm against the flaky, feathery tart crust. Maybe I need to give those another go around!

Last summer my husband and I went up to Montana for one of my best friend’s wedding and created some wonderful cherry memories too. We gobbled them up by the pound at the local cherry stands on the drive in and were delighted to see they played a part in the wedding décor as well! Hailey’s wedding was beautiful, and allowed me to explore the amazing spaces of Montana. If you haven’t been, you should go as soon as you can, and in July when the cherries are plentiful too! Hailey and I always tease that we are going to open up a B&B one day up there or in Colorado. If we ever do, I expect visits from you all!

Hailey's Wedding on Flathead Lake MT

How cute was the table decor?! Cherries didn't last long...

Oh, did I not mention the cherry WINE!

OK back from memory lane. I saw this Cherry Lentil Salad recipe on Whole Foods site the other day I knew it had to be put on this week’s menu. Fresh, filling, and full of flavor and goodness. It would be a great BBQ side dish for the fourth! It serves 8, is easy to make, and easy on the budget. You can find the original recipe here: Whole Foods Cherry-Lentil Salad

Cherry Lentil Salad


• 1 1/2 cups dried green (French) lentils, rinsed and picked through
• 2-3 tbs red wine vinegar
• 2-3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tbs kosher salt
• 1 tbs freshly ground black pepper
• 4 cups fresh cherries (about 1 pound), pitted and halved
• 1 cup chopped fresh basil (I used mine fresh from the garden!)


Bring 5 cups of water to boil in a soup pot with a dash of sea salt and olive oil. Add in lentils, lower the heat and simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool in a large bowl. add in vinegar, olive oil, and spices. Toss to coat.

*I put them in the fridge after the cooled because we weren’t ready to eat yet. You can also do this step ahead of time if you have a tight evening schedule!

When you are ready to serve, add the cherries and basil. Taste test and adjust if needed. My in-laws added roast chicken to theirs, the hubby and I enjoyed it just as is!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Case of the Mondays Medicine

Yesterday I woke up a bit achy. Maybe it was a case of the Mondays. Maybe it’s a sign to look into my diet a bit more and make sure that I am getting all the vitamins and nutrients that I need. Nonetheless, I needed some comfort, and comfort for me is found in cooking. Even if I get home at 6:30 and am completely pooped, cooking sounds like the perfect medicine. The sounds, the smells, the peace… It all brings me back to center.

I have been wanting to a) use up that cubed butternut squash in my freezer, b) try a vegan “cheeze” sauce again” and c) put them both together for a delicious, vegan, and gluten free mac ‘n’ cheeze. Last night, and well from the looks of it outside today (dark and stormy), it will cure any Manic Monday or Tornadic weather Tuesday you are enduring.

I first tried making vegan cheeze sauce on pizza here: GF/DF Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Medley Pizza

If you recall it was a bit too cashewy for my taste but good! I have been anxious to find a version that I loved and not just liked though. I found it last night. It whirred and whizzed in my food processor until it whipped itself into a thick, velvety topping. It cuddled my gluten free elbow noodles like a silky smooth blanket. It was better than any mac and cheese I have ever had. It cured my case of the Mondays.

The butternut squash is roasted and added into the cheeze sauce in this recipe so I wanted to add another veggie. I could have sworn I had some peas or broccoli on hand but alas they have already been gobbled up. I had spinach and edamame to choose for my green so I decided that edamame might be a delightful touch. I loved the texture that it brought to the bowl! Feel free to use whatever veggie suits you.

Butternut Squash Mac ‘N’ Cheeze with Edamame
Adapted from Oh She Glows recipe here: Butternut Squash Mac N Cheeze


• 2 cups frozen or fresh butternut squash
• 3/4 cup raw cashews
• 1 cup non-dairy milk (unsweetened + unflavoured soy milk)
• 3 organic garlic cloves
• 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
• 7 tbsp Nutritional yeast
• 1 tsp dijon mustard
• 1/2 tsp or a bit more of dried Italian seasoning
• 1/2 tsp Tumeric powder, optional (gives the orangey color)
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1/2 tsp Paprika
• Tinkanyada brown rice elbow pasta (1 bag)
• 1 carton vegetable broth + 1 cup water
• ¾ cup edamame (I had frozen that I thawed and boiled)


Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a baking sheet. In a bowl, season chopped squash with a tsp or two of olive oil, and a couple pinches of kosher salt. Toss to coat. Lay squash squares on baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes. I flipped after about 25.

While the squash roast away, gather all your cheeze sauce ingredients (cashews, non-dairy milk, garlic, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, pepper, mustard, seasonings). Add just the cashews to food processor. Process until a fine crumb forms similar to corn meal. Add in the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients and process until very smooth.

Taste test. A couple times ;) This sauce left me speechless and drooling! I wanted to dip a big hunk of bread in it hehe. Leave the sauce in the processor as you will be adding the squash.

Bring your broth and water to a boil in a soup pot. Add in gluten free pasta and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.

When squash is finished roasting, add it to the food processor and blend it with the cheese sauce until smooth. Adjust to taste. The sauce will thicken up with time. I like mine really thick and cheesy but if you like a runnier mac and cheese feel free to add milk.

Add the pasta back into the same pot on a low heat burner and add your desired amount of cheeze sauce on top. Stir well. Add in edamame and mix until the whole pot is warm and cheesy.

Dish into bowls and serve immediately. This made 4 heaping portions. I am so glad because my tummy is growling for it already!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dairy Free Delight

My husband’s family loves brownies and cookies. I have been trying to focus and perfect my baking again, a love affair that seems to have jumped back from hiatus. You can knock me down but I’ll get back up! This sweet toothed inlaws, hubby/determined gluten free baker relationship has been working out well!

I saw an interesting brownie recipe on Elana’s Pantry the other day. Flourless Chocolate Chip Brownies. I have seen flourless cake and such and thought, hey, why not? I loved that the big ingredient was a whole jar of almond butter! Nothing processed, no artificial sugars, just a simple treat. Gluten Free and Dairy Free.

I made a couple changes to the recipe (shocker I know) but decided to keep the eggs for the first round since I have never attempted any recipe like this before. I plan on perfecting a vegan version soon. Here is Elana’s recipe: Elana's Pantry Chocolate Chip Brownies

Flourless Chocolate Chip Brownies


• 1 (16) ounce jar smooth almond butter
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups agave nectar
• 1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips


Preheat your oven to 325F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish (I used Earth Balance).
In a large bowl, blend almond butter until smooth with a hand/immersion blender. Add eggs and blend well then slowly add in agave and vanilla. Add cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and blend until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. The batter was VERY THICK but hey, it’s an arm workout!

Pour batter into baking dish and spread evenly. I taste tested of course and found it to be very delicious! Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove and let cool for at least 15-20 minutes.


My husband said that they were delicious but a little on the dry side and could maybe use frosting on top. My mother in law likes hers “more dry” and said they were very tasty.

I thought they were pretty good. Simple flavors but I do agree they could be a bit more moist. I will work on that! They rose well in the oven and were a perfect thickness. I think some vanilla vegan ice cream on top would make ALL the difference ;)

I will play around with the recipe more to accomplish a moist, vegan version. Any suggestions???

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thinking Green

Green monsters. You’ve seen me mention them. You’ve maybe seen them uploaded on my blog’s facebook page. But, I have never really gone too in depth into them.

Angela Libbon from Oh She Glows started the “Green Monster Movement” and it has been catching on like crazy! I have seen so many different ways people have taken this simple recipe/idea and turn it into fabulous and delicious concoctions. Green smoothies made with a healthy dose of spinach or kale, and all sorts of different fruit and mix ins, depending on your mood. These fresh, healthy, energy boosting delights have me addicted! When I am feeling low on energy or have just finished a grueling 5 am work out, I blend up one of these babies and BAM! instant bliss.

Check out her movement here! Green Monster Movement

I love putting in frozen bananas because it tastes like creamy ice cream! Sometimes I don't have time to freeze them or I am wanting something outside of a banana flavor though so I omit. My recent obsession: MANGOS! Here is one of my recent green mango machines. After a bit of a rough night, my husband and I needed a little pep in our step. This was just the ticket.

Oh, and consider me hooked on the green monster movement! You will see a lot more versions from this Indie! Please feel free to share yours so I can try! :)

Mango Green Goblin


• organic mango, diced (or use frozen chunks if you don’t have fresh)
• 1 tsp chia seeds
• 1 cup almond milk
• 1 tsp organic vanilla
• 2-3 large handfuls fresh organic spinach
• 2-3 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients but ice into your food processor and pulse until smooth. Turn ‘on’ and add ice one cube at a time until crushed. Pour and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Something FISHY is going on here...

Something a little bit fishy happened yesterday. Fishy as in shrimp that is. Shrimp and Noodle Soup… Asian style. For the life of me I cannot figure out why this idea popped into my head but it just seemed right to make for dinner. Sometimes I like to look at other’s recipes and add/subtract this and that. Other times, like last night, I decided to create a meal from the scratch of my own thoughts. Fresh, simple, comforting, and a hint of unexpected heat. The more I thought about what I would put into the soup the more excited I got because I knew I had a lot of those items at home. I just needed to grab a couple specialty items from the ethnic section. Foreign. International. Whatever you want to call it, I would be grabbing whatever I thought would fit into my foreign soup from the shelves.

I headed to produce and grabbed a red bell pepper and organic shitake mushrooms (hooray on sale!). Some cooked shrimp, spicy sauce addition, and Asian veggies and I was set! I was really excited to see how this would all turn out.

My diet has been vegan/vegetarian for a while now, but with the exception of fish. We eat fish every once in a while because well frankly we still want it! The oils are good for my husband’s joints and like I said, our lifestyle is not about deprivation. We want to be healthy and happy. So the fishies are here to stay. However, feel free to omit the shrimp and you will have a lovely Asian vegan noodle soup!

My-Yum Shrimp & Noodle Soup

• 1 container vegetable broth (I used Pacific)
• ½ package gluten free Thai style noodles (I used Tinkanyada)
• 3 tbs Thai chili sauce
• 2-3 tbs gluten free soy sauce, low sodium
• Red pepper flakes to taste
• 1 can water chestnuts
• 1 can chopped baby corn
• 8-10 shitake mushrooms
• Canola oil
• 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
• Pinch kosher salt

Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a large soup pot. Add in your noodles and cook for about 12-15 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

While your noodles nestle snugly in your pot, sauté your mushrooms and pepper in a medium sauce pan with a tablespoon of canola oil. When your mushrooms are soft, add chestnuts, baby corn, and red pepper flakes to taste. After a few minutes add your soy sauce and coat all your veggies. I let it simmer for a few minutes.

Add everything into your soup pot and stir to combine. Add chili sauce. Taste test. I added a pinch of salt. We had to run an errand so I let my soup sit on low, covered to let the flavors melt together.

The soup turned out DELICIOUS if I do say so myself. My husband and I gobbled down two bowls! Yum Yum.

NOTE: I used thai style noodles thinking that they would be thinner. They were delicious but as far as looks I think I will find a super skinny rice noodle for next time!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"this is the way I eat my Peanut Butter Cup..."

I don’t have a big sweet tooth but I love putting together desserts. Baking is getting easier each time (minus the occasional GF monster surprise) and I love the smiles I get from my loyal family taste testers.

Lately I have been obsessed with looking at vegan and raw desserts online. I find no bake sweets fascinating and quite frankly a big relief when I don’t have to pray and dutifully check my oven window every 5 minutes. Some of my recent favorites have been frozen banana soft serve, cookie dough “blizzards”, and cookie dough balls dipped in chocolate. I know what you are thinking, “Didn’t she JUST saw that she didn’t have a sweet tooth?” Well, these desserts are not only GF and no bake, but they are also vegan and healthier for you. Plus, the recipes make small portions. Hey, I know it's bikini season but we are still allowed to treat ourselves every once in a while…

I had to show a lot of restraint to get a photo...
Last night I tested out a peanut butter cup recipe I found on I love Averie’s cooking because it is simple, healthy, and kid friendly. Her daughter gobbles up her healthy vegan goodies with no complaints! I was a big Reeses peanut butter cup fan in the past so I thought it would be fun to try. It was probably the easiest dessert I have ever made! No food processor, no baking, no fuss, and no long list of ingredients. In fact, I had everything in my kitchen pantry! I have been keeping vegan chocolate chips or karob chips around for my chocolate chip cookie dough ball obsession (recipe to come!).

I of course added a couple things to the recipe but feel free to play around with it to your own taste buds desire! You can find her original recipe here: Averie's Raw Vegan 10 Minute Peanut Butter Cups

These make 2 good size cups. I don’t know about you but if it’s in front of me I will eat it so I prepared portion controlled cups!

Vegan 10 Minute Peanut Butter Cups


Rich Peanut Butter Goodness!
• ½ cup vegan chocolate (I used vegan chocolate chips)
• 2 tsp nutritional yeast
• 2 tablespoons organic creamy peanut butter
• 2 tsp agave nectar
• Pinch kosher salt
• 2 tsp organic pure vanilla extract


Melt ¼ cup of the chocolate in the microwave (about a minute). Fill the bottom of 2 muffin liners evenly with the melted chocolate. The muffin liners give it the rippled edges like a real reeses.

Mix together peanut butter, honey, yeast, salt and vanilla. If your yeast isn’t mixed well you can microwave it for about 10 seconds. Spoon desired dollop onto the semi hardened chocolate base.

Melt the remaining chocolate and pour evenly over the peanut butter. Put into the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Peel wrapper and enjoy! They are pretty rich so one was plenty for me and my husband. I am sure you can make big batches though pretty easily. I see party ideas in the future!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ri Le's- A Vietnamese and Vegan Awakening

I used to visit Ri Le’s with my family all the time as a little girl. I must confess, and I shame myself (as does my tummy and taste buds) that I hadn’t visited this establishment in probably four years. My dear readers and fellow restaurant connoisseurs, it was only punishment to myself and I have no excuse but that possibly I grew senile and forgot to visit. Can one be senile in their 20s? All I know is that I knew I had to have it. A craving that grew so strong I had to scrape the internet to find a menu. You know me and my cravings…they are sharp and specific. Nothing else would cure this Indie’s craving.

Pronounced Ree-lay’s, this Tulsa landmark definitely isn’t shy about relaying boastful dishes to our local community. Thirty years ago, Ri Le and his wife Thao opened their first small Vietnamese restaurant in Tulsa and have been dishing out healthy, flavorful food since it's opening1981. Oh and guess what? It’s definitely a vegetable lover’s heaven. The owner himself is vegan and prides himself on preparing healthy dishes. That is my kind of restaurant owner!

Was it worth the four year wait before coming back? Honestly, yes. Now, before you get your noodles all in a bunch let me explain why. It was a whole new experience, or maybe a strange new awakening. I had a deeper appreciation of his dishes and was delighted by my menu choice.

I found their menu on urbanspoon and happily browsed the long list of vegetarian and vegan options. Hmmm… vege tofu. That sounded about right. I had them make it the “soy” option which means it was prepared to the textures of how the meat is served versus cubed or sliced tofu. You have to ask for it to be prepared like this specially but he doesn’t mind! Not knocking eating tofu in shapes but sometimes you gotta change it up right? They were great about cooking the dish for a gluten free diner too.

It was delicious fellow Tulsans and visitors. BETTER than I remember.The vegetables were spicy, tangy, and crunched perfectly against the silky smooth texture of the delicate tofu. The rice soaked up the sauce and I felt myself melt into my seat. I have a feeling that these cravings will come more consistently now. In fact, just typing about it makes me want to pick up the phone…

Ri Le’s Location:
4932 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74137
(918) 496-2126